It is unknown how many of the 20,664,463 Buffalo nickels struck at Philadelphia in 1914 are of this overdate, and there seems to be some disagreement about the origin of the 1914/(3), or 1914 4 Over 3, Buffalo nickel overdate – primarily concerning where in the process of striking coins the overdate happened. PCGS states that it was most likely created when a master die for the 1913 Buffalo nickel was repunched using a 1914-dated working hub. NGC states that the overdating occurred on a working hub for the 1914 nickel that was then struck into the working dies. Because of this difference in understanding, while PCGS still attributes the variety on its holders, NGC does not.
But of those nickels that PCGS hs attributed the variety, the company reports only three specimens graded MS-66. Adding to the condition rarity and eye appeal of the piece GreatCollections is offering on Sunday, this example is the only one of those three top pop coins that is also approved by CAC.
There are no auction records listed by PCGS for MS-66-graded specimens. But prices for the solitary MS-65 piece reported by PCGS are all in the five figures. Selling most recently in December 2017, it went for $18,213. Over eight years earlier, it sold for $23,000 in August and $18,400 in April 2009. Five years before that, however, the MS-65 went for $27,600 in August and $29,900 in January 2004.
For more auction results, you can search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
At the time of writing, the starting bid for this 1914/(3) Buffalo nickel is $75,000.
A Brief History of the Buffalo Nickel
Buffalo, or Indian Head, nickels have been a popular series with collectors since the start of the type in 1913, abetted by the introduction of collecting boards and albums in the 1930s.
James Earle Fraser’s design for the coin included popular western themes represented by the Native American on the obverse and the bison (more commonly known as a buffalo, though the two are distinct species) on the reverse. The coin also had matte or pebbled fields popular with sculptors of the day, instead of the smooth or polished surfaces typically seen on U.S. coins. The first Buffalo nickels were minted in February 1913 and released into circulation in early March. However, it soon became apparent that the raised denomination on the reverse would be subject to excessive wear, and to minimize that Mint Engraver Charles Barber cut away most of the mound upon which the bison stands to provide a recessed space (called an exergue) for the text. The obverse date was equally exposed though no apparent changes were made to protect it, and it is not unusual to see examples of Buffalo nickels today with the date nearly obliterated.
Barber also made additional modifications to the design, smoothing the textured fields and reducing details in both the Indian’s hair and the bison’s hide, changes that reduced the artistic strength of the original design in the opinion of many. Barber’s modifications are labeled Type (or Variety) 2. Some authors have proposed an additional “Type 3” designation for nickels produced from 1916 through 1938 based on changes made in 1916, though these nickels are not usually considered a separate type. The 1916 changes included a sharper depiction of the word LIBERTY on the obverse, including a slight repositioning of that text toward the center, and other modifications to the portrait, particularly the nose, though the latter is questioned by some scholars.
Along with typical overpunch and doubled varieties, the Buffalo nickel is noted for some additional, more unusual anomalies. A classic piece of American coinage is the 1937-D 3-Legged nickel, which resulted from a careless or over-zealous effort to remove clash marks or defects from the reverse die. A few 1927 prooflike Philadelphia nickels were identified in 1989 as Specimen strikings, described as having exceptional details, flat rims with squared inner edges but wire (or knife) outer edges, and satin surfaces with reflective edges.
Another interesting variety of the type is not a product of the United States Mint at all but consists of nickels with the surfaces (usually the obverse) modified by carving or engraving. These Hobo nickels, as they are called, are mentioned in numismatic literature as early as the late 1910s. Made by hobos during the 1930s Depression years, or perhaps done by other artists to represent those itinerants, the resultant efforts are miniature works of folk art. More recent “nickel carver” artists have added modern examples to this classic type, and these new modified coins are also collectible.
A right-facing Indian portrait (a composite of three actual Indian chiefs), with hair braided to the side and two feathers tied at the crown, occupies most of the obverse. The word LIBERTY is placed to the upper right, just beyond the forehead, and is the only text next to the raised rim. The date is located at the lower left, on the portrait shoulder, and the designer’s initial F is located below the date.
A full side view of a left-facing bison dominates the reverse, the beast standing on a slightly raised mound under which is the denomination of FIVE CENTS. UNITED STATES oF AMERICA forms an arc above the bison inside the flat rim, and crowded into the space below AMERICA and above the back of the animal is E PLURIBUS UNUM, each word on a separate line. Indian Head nickels were minted at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco; D and S mintmarks are located below the denomination.
The edge is plain or smooth.